Sometime about 10 days ago I "invented" a new sport, at least I think I did. Of course, I knew this was highly unlikely. Everything that's going to be invented has already been invented, right? I figured Google would toss me out like a week-old salad. Only it didn't. Big G produced a number of hits, of course, but none of them proved particularly helpful. I couldn't find any sure evidence that someone else had already invented my sport.
I felt sure that random individuals must have tried it, but I couldn't track down any significant race results. At the very least, it appears that my sport has yet to be standardized and turned into a competitive event. This surprised me: The idea is simple, tough and effective (as a great cross-training workout, or a competitive race.)
Someone suggested that the Concept2 people who make the well-known indoor rowing machine have probably held a few events similar to what I was cogitating. This made sense, because the C.R.A.S.H.-B Sprints, contested on Concept2 equipment, are famous. Indeed, the Sprints, held every winter in Boston, bill themselves as the "world indoor rowing championships." But I couldn't find my new sport at the Concept2 or C.R.A.S.H.-B web sites.
Okay, enough fiddle-faddle. Here's the sport: It's an indoor row-bike-run triathlon. It's contested on indoor equipment that provides various measures of speed and fitness. You add up your "scores" or times on the three machines, and that determines your whether you win or lose.
The variety of possible event formats and lengths is nearly infinite. If someone begins to organize the sport, however, a couple of popular distances or lengths-of-time will emerge as the standards.
A few days after I began thinking about the RBR triathlon, I found a Twitter post reporting one possible approach. In Boston, right around the corner from the Boston Marathon offices, personal trainer Ron Abecassis held an indoor row-bike-run at the Fitcorp Copley facility. He challenged entrants to see if they could break 31 minutes for 1500 meters rowing, 6 miles biking, and 2 miles running. No one came close, with eventual winners Glen Gibbons and Lisa Ritchie clocking 34:03 and 37:27 for the triathlon.
I called Abecassis to learn more. He said that the Fitcorp people had designed this indoor triathlon to motivate more of their corporate fitness clientele to get excited about their workouts. He hadn't heard of anyone else doing a similar event, but the one at Fitcorp's Copley location followed a similar one at another Fitcorp location. In all, about 50 people have completed the indoor triathlon, which appeared to have more appeal for cardio types than for strength-training types, according to Abecassis. Several of the participants were veteran Boston Marathon runners. "It's a tough workout, and everyone was pretty exhausted at the end of their 35 to 45 minutes," Abecassis told me. "But they definitely liked it. They were asking when we were going to do another one." (Abecassis is checking with other Fitcorp trainers to see if anyone else can report race times faster than the ones I listed below. If not, those are the current world records, and you're welcome to take a crack at them.)
When I floated the row-bike-run idea to a few friends last week, one responded with a completely different "format" that I liked a lot. Scott Murr is an exercise physiologist and serious Ironman triathlete at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. He spends a lot of time thinking about workouts and how to fit them together. His suggestion: the RBR should be calorie based. See how long it takes you to burn 100 calories each on a rowing machine, a bike, and a treadmill. I haven't tried this yet, but I think it will probably constitute my first go at an RBR triathlon. I imagine a killer athlete (much stronger and faster than me) could complete this challenge in about 15 minutes, but we won't know for sure until someone tries it.)
As I've already noted: The possible combinations are large. Pick a distance or length-of-time or format that appeals to you, and give it a try. Let us know how it works by writing a Comment in the space below this blog.
Yes, a machine event is going to have problems. Different makes and models of equipment will measure effort with, I'm sure, some degree of variability. It won't be possible to directly compare performances from a dark basement in Minnesota with those at a swank health club in Los Angeles. By why sweat the small stuff at this point? The problems will be overcome by athletes and organizations who want to hold serious competitions.
Until then, it's time to rev up the machines and get cranking. Start with some modest attempts, and be creative with your time and effort. Be sure to try different combinations of time, distance, watts, calories burned, etc. This could be your big chance to etch your name into the world-record books. (You only have to be the first competitor.)
And let me know how it goes. Thanks.
P.S. I've been talking about this subject a lot at home and with friends, and my wife begs to inform everyone that it was her idea. She says she was watching me on my home recumbent bike recently, and said something like "It's too bad you can't put all that effort into some kind of race." I vaguely remember the comment in the same way that I vaguely remember about 90 percent of her comments. This isn't because she's boring and stupid--quite the opposite!--but because, uh, that's the way things go between husband and wife after a while. Isn't it?